Archive for the ‘Baltimore Baseball History’ Category
Part 2 of 2
Club directors finally settled on the nickname Terrapins. The field naturally took the same name. A school previously sat on the site, as well as a mansion where George Washington was said to have dined and slept. Extensive grading began by mid January and proved problematic; there were extensive wells and caves beneath the surface. The groundbreaking ceremonies, led by Mayor James H. Preston, took place on January 22 with 200 in attendance.
Baltimore Sun 1/13/1914
The well-manned construction project was expected to take 45 days but got off to a great start, as half of it was claimed complete by February. The ballpark was designed by Otto. G. Simonson. Unlike the rest of the new Federal League parks, it was a wooden structure – built atop steel and concrete.
It seated over 13,000. Home plate sat 76’ from the grandstands with outfield distances:
- Left field – 300’
- Center field – 450’
- Right field – 335’
Particular attention was paid to drainage where an up-to-date piping system was employed. The field could be ready relatively quickly after a pouring rain. The entire project was completed at a reported total cost of $195,000.
The field was still in poor shape, lumping and unlevel, come Opening Day. Grounds chief Reddie Truelieb and crew reworked the soil during an away stand from the end of April to mid May but it still proved problematic. Many of the issues were remedied while the Terrapins were away again during much of June.
(Terrapin Park was taken over by Jack Dunn after the Federal League folded and renamed Orioles Park, the fifth field to use the name. It was used by the team until July 3, 1944 when it caught aflame and was completely destroyed. The field was also used by the Elite Giants in the 1930s.)
Baltimore embraced the opportunity to field another major league squad:
Baltimore Sun 10/24/1913
The city already had an established nine and a good one, the Baltimore Orioles of the International League owned by Jack Dunn. The International League was indeed a top minor league but it wasn’t a major. And that mattered.
Dunn had just signed George Herman Ruth on February 14 from the local St. Mary’s Industrial School. Unbeknown to the baseball world at the time, Ruth would help revitalize the game.
Out of respect for Dunn, Ned Hanlon and the Baltimore Terrapins did not raid the Orioles roster, as they (and other Federal League clubs) did indiscriminately with other Organized Baseball squads. In fact, they insisted upon it; Dunn’s contracts were respected.
The Terrapins trained at Southern Pines, North Carolina where Knabe’s Phillies worked out the previous year. Dunn’s Orioles trained at nearby Fayetteville. There, George Ruth gained his famous nickname, a reference to Dunn’s paternal nature over the new recruit.
The Federal League debuted in Baltimore on April 13. Paid attendance was 27,692, exceeding 30,000 with free passes. Thousands were turned away. The fans flooded in when the gates opened at 12:30 (for the 3pm contest). Over 12,000 stood behind a roped-off section surrounding the field. Scalpers got anywhere from $3 to $10 for a $1 ticket. Baltimore topped Buffalo on Opening Day 3-2; Jack Quinn won for the home team, allowing only five hits.
The Orioles hosted the reigning National League champion New York Giants across the street that day, losing 3-2 before 3000 spectators.
On the 21st, the Orioles also opened against Buffalo, the Bisons of the International League that is. Dave Danforth shut out the visitors, 7-0 on four hits. The writing seemed to be on the wall as less than 1000 attended the Orioles opener. The Terrapins next door drew 3800 for another 3-2 victory by Quinn. To boot, 1500 fans followed the Baltimore Feds on a scoreboard outside the Sun offices. It would be a long, hard season for both the Orioles and Bisons as they directly competed against Federal League clubs for attention and attendance.
The Terrapins, or Terps, started strong, winning 22 of their first 29 decisions. Their record at the end of May stood at 22-11. They soon tapered off, posting a losing record in June. Two righthanders – Quinn and George Suggs – proved to be the best one-two starting combo in the league. They notched at combined 50-28 record while the rest of the squad managed a meager 34-42 showing. In total, the Terrapins amassed an 84-70-6 record, landing in third place.
Orioles: Strong Afield, Weak at the Gate
Attendance woes hit Jack Dunn quick and hard. Within two weeks the picture became crystal clear; the city no longer deemed the Orioles worthy of its attention.
Sporting Life 5/9/1914 (from New York Tribune)
Dunn and the directors of the Bisons petitioned International League president Ed Barrow for a conference. The secret meeting was held on Sunday May 17. The particulars weren’t disclosed but soon thereafter Dunn and Barrow began pushing the National Commission, Organized Baseball’s ruling body, for elimination of the draft and a boost to major league status for the International League. Dunn believed this would solve his problems; The Orioles would be a legitimate major-league squad and he would once again win over the city with a better nine and brand of baseball than the Terrapins put forth.
Meanwhile, the Orioles were dominating their league. A hardy crowd of 5000 paid to see the club win its 13th consecutive contest on Saturday, June 13. Dunn was disappointed though, expecting to see even more faces in the stands. Anticipating a strong season, Dunn had revamped his ballpark before the season at considerable expense. He expanded the seating to 9000, improved drainage and installed several attractive flower beds. (Tickets at the International League ballpark typically cost between 50 and 75 cents.)
Baltimore Sun 6/6/1914
On June 17, Dunn announced:
Baseball Magazine 9/1914
(49 shares meaning 49% of club)
On June 20, Dunn, Bisons’ president Jacob J. Stein and Barrow met with the National Commission. By this time Dunn was desperate with losses already amounting to $20,000; the Orioles were going under and he foresaw over $30,000 more in losses by the end of the year. He was already talking about relocating the club. Moreover, Buffalo officials had given up and sold their franchise for $60,000.
New York Times 6/20/1914
Dunn emerged from the meeting encouraged, thinking that the draft had been rescinded and that he had gained a commitment for a new major league, of which the Orioles would be a part. The plan was to meld eight of the strongest clubs – four from the east and four from the west – from the International League and American Association and create a third major in Organized Baseball.
Baltimore Sun 6/21/1914
The optimism soon fizzled as neither promise readily materialized. Dunn talked more seriously with Richmond officials about relocating the Orioles to Virginia. Richmond, a member of the Virginia League, was seeking an upgrade. (The existing Richmond club would be relocated to Lynchburg.)
Barrow, though, was pressuring Dunn to stay in Baltimore and weather the storm. On July 2, Dunn declared that the Richmond offer was rejected; he was now half-heartedly committed to Baltimore for the rest of the season. Things would change though:
Sporting Life 7/11/1914
Only 5000 paid their way into Orioles Park on the holiday, Saturday, July 4 – a 50% drop from the previous season. The first-place Orioles (47-23) were playing some of the best baseball in the country, but the Terrapins – in third place with a 35-30 record – had captured their fans.
Dunn set a game for the 5th, an unheard of Sunday contest in Baltimore. Technically, this violated city blue laws. But, the Orioles drew a disappointing 1200. The Monday crowd also fell way short of expectations. Dunn decided to act. Every one of his ballplayers was up for sale. He would dismantle the leading International League club. (As Connie Mack was a minority partner in the Orioles, this would be the first of two clubs Mack dismantled during the Federal League war.)
Birdie Cree to Yankees, reported $8000
George Twombly and Claude Derrick to Reds, reported $15,000
Babe Ruth, Ernie Shore and captain Ben Egan to Red Sox, reported $25,000 (seems high though).
According to one writer, now Dunn “may manage to get through the season without going broke.” It struck a The Sporting News correspondent as amusing that the mighty Orioles were disassembled while the Terrapins were in Brooklyn “playing the most ridiculous base ball imaginable.”
After the trades, fan support plummeted from its already diminished turnouts. On the 11th, only 26 paid to see the still first-place Orioles take on Newark – Twenty Six. Across the street, 12,000 saw a doubleheader between the Terrapins and Buffalo.
Based on their strong start, the Orioles remained in first place through July, even after the sale of lefthanded pitcher Ensign Cottrell to the Braves on the 28th. Dunn’s boys soon faded though and fell out of the pennant chase as August wore on.
The Terrapins drew nearly 125,000 fans in 1914 according to stats amassed by Organized Baseball, third highest total in the Federal League – though less than nearly every club in the American and National Leagues. The Orioles figures were surely much smaller, dramatically so. No matter how many players he sold, Dunn still came out in the red. The Terrapins also lost money, $18,000 as reported by the Sporting Life.
(The available Federal League attendance figures are numbers accrued, or perhaps fictionalized, by counters who were employees of Organized Baseball. Supposedly, they stood ready each and every game and recorded the data. As these are numbers supplied by a rival organization, they are highly suspect to say the least.)
Relocation and Resurrection
By November, the Orioles were rumored to be transferred to either Syracuse or Richmond. The Sun summed up the Orioles season in a yearend recap:
Baltimore Sun 1/1/1915
On January 12, 1915, the Virginia League agreed to a buyout of $12,500 ($10,000 from Richmond interests and $2500 from Dunn) to relinquish the Richmond territory. Dunn sold his team (to an entity known as the Richmond Exhibition Company) the following day; though, he would still manage the squad and oversee the stockholders’ meetings. He also maintained 50% ownership. Dunn removed the grandstands at Orioles Park and installed them at his new field in Richmond, expanding its capacity.
The Baltimore Sun summed up the transfer: “The Orioles, as a matter of fact, will be to Richmond just what the Terrapins are to Baltimore. The people of both cities wanted higher classification, and now they have it.”
The Federal League bled cash in 1913, 1914 and 1915 during their confrontation with Organized Baseball. Their chief financial backer, Robert Ward, died at a critical juncture of league reexamination – October 1915. With him went the hopes of the league. As the Baltimore officials declared, Ward’s loss took from the league “its most courageous and determined spirit in the most critical period of its history.”
A couple of months later, the Feds and American and National Leagues made peace. That is, the Federal League was paid off to disband. An estimated $600,000 (over 20 years) was said to change hands. Moreover, Phil Ball and Al Sinclair bought into the St. Louis Browns and Charles Weegham took over the Chicago Cubs. (His Federal League park would become the renowned Wrigley Field.)
The Terrapins rejected the deal and took no payout ($50,000 was offered). They wanted a major league club for Baltimore or at least a new International League franchise. Neither was granted. They sued and the case ultimately was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. In its disposition, Organize Baseball was granted its antitrust exemption it so cherishes.
Dunn returned to Baltimore in 1916. He sold his Richmond interests locally, purchased the Jersey City franchise of the International League for $75,000 and relocated them to Baltimore. In March, Dunn purchased Terrapin Park for approximately $30,000, a steal. Ned Hanlon still retained ownership of the lot, accepting $4000 rent annually. Orioles Park came into disuse and was eventually torn down.
The newest version of the Orioles would become one of the strongest minor league clubs ever assembled, copping the International League pennant each year from 1919 through 1925.
(Harry Goldman would trek to Gettysburg on December 2, 1914 and ink Eddie Plank to a Federal League boilerplate contract.)
- Baltimore Evening News, 13 April 1914, 21 April 1914
- Baltimore Sun, 1913-1914
- New York Times, 1914
- Sporting Life, 1913-1914
- The Sporting News, 1914
- Wiggins, Robert Peyton. The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs: The History of an Outlaw Major League, 1914-1915. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 2009.
The Battle for Baltimore, 1914: The Federal League Moves In
19 August 1913 – Secret meeting of the Federal League in Indianapolis:
League directors meet, after disposing of president John Powers. They each pledge to put up $50,000 by September 20 to commit to a run at becoming an independent major league in 1914.
Among their initial plans: Add eastern territories, specifically Baltimore and Buffalo; Seek new ballparks in Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis and Indianapolis; Seek the counsel of players’ union leader Dave Fultz
The Federal League survived in 1913 in contrast to two other leagues – the United States League and the Columbian League – which had tried in 1912 to operate outside Organized Baseball, the formal structure linking the traditional major and minor leagues. The United States League of 1912 included Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh, Reading, Richmond and Washington, D.C. It survived only a month. The Colombian League never hosted a contest.
(A separate United States League was formed in 1913 – optimistically including Baltimore, Brooklyn, Lynchburg, Newark, Philadelphia and D.C. – but it failed within its first week of operation.)
The Federal League of 1913, under president John Powers, included several interests from the previous year’s failed leagues and opened the season with franchises in Chicago, Cleveland, Covington, Kentucky (across the river from Cincinnati), Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. (The financially strapped Covington squad relocated to Kansas City forty games into the season.) Powers’ league successfully completed a 120-game schedule, no small feat considering that it directly competed for a fan base with major league franchises in four of its six cities.
Financially, the Federal League was bleeding cash. Jumping into an established eastern market proved unprofitable. Regardless or perhaps defiantly so, the league drastically changed direction in August. Powers was dismissed (formally claimed to be overworked and in need of a vacation) and James Gilmore took his place. Gilmore was a backer of the Chicago franchise. He brought a renewed vigor to the league and the magnates put the American and National Leagues on notice; they were unilaterally declaring major league status for 1914.
Was the Federal League on a solid footing? Was it profitable enough in 1913 that the progression seemed natural? Did it possess enough major-league quality talent that the declaration was inevitable? The answer to these questions is an emphatic, “No!” The league’s backers went ahead anyhow.
Adjustments to the foundation of the league would be needed – and quickly. Learning from the American League’s transition over a decade earlier, Gilmore and crew needed two basic ingredients which would be essential to their success – financing and relocation. The two were intertwined. The Federal League needed representation in the east and, more importantly, it required the men who could afford it. Players, managers and ballparks could all be bought later. The money men, as in all ambitious projects, were essential, preferably from the get-go.
This is what separated the Federal League from many other leagues. Over its existence it can be strongly argued that the Feds may not have put a top-quality product on the field but in its wealthy backers they stood out:
- Gilmore, manufacturer
- Charles Weeghman, Chicago, restaurateur
- Phil Ball, St. Louis, cold storage
- Otto Stifel, St. Louis, brewer
- Robert Ward, Brooklyn, millionaire, baking industry
- Albert Sinclair, St. Louis, oil tycoon
The Feds needed to revamp their circuit for 1914, change the map so to speak. Chicago was a no-brainer. One of the most ravenous baseball cities in the country, it was the leading market outside the east coast. Indianapolis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and St. Louis were also retained. Considering a desire to expand to 8 clubs, three remained. Whether to retain or remove the Cleveland franchise proved contentious but in the end it was dropped.
On October 20, 1913, the Federal League took a giant leap forward; it announced its commitment to add an eastern city, or two, or three. Baltimore, Brooklyn, Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia led the list. Judge Harry Goldman, one of the primary backers of the American League Orioles of 1901-1902, had met with Federal League officials, declaring the city’s interest in once again fielding a major league nine. Baltimore, provided that backing could be found, seemed to have a leg up.
Goldman spread the word. Immediately, the city’s leaders expressed their willingness to open their wallets and purchase stock in the new enterprise. A pledge of $100,000 was needed to convince Federal League officials of the city’s seriousness. A local advisory committee was formed within a week; these men would attend the next Federal League meeting set for November 1 in Indianapolis.
On October 27, the articles of incorporation were formed and soon remitted to Annapolis, the state’s capital, for approval. The board of directors read:
- Carroll W. Rasin
- John S. Wilson, Jr.
- Gustav L. Stewart
- Walter Katzenstein
- Stuart S. Janney
- L. Edwin Goldman
- Harry Goldman
- George Schleunes
An option was taken on a plot of land for a ballpark and stock was set to be issued, $150,000 preferred, $150,000 common. One share would cost $100. The next day, the stock offering appeared in local newspapers.
Baltimore Sun 10/28/1913
At a meeting on the 28th, the officers were chosen:
- Rasin, president
- Stewart, vice president
- Wilson, treasurer
- Harry Goldman, secretary
- Katzenstein, assistant secretary
At the Federal League meeting on November 1, Baltimore and Buffalo were officially added to the league’s roster. Brooklyn would soon follow.
On the 12th, Ned Hanlon became a club director and purchased a “considerable amount of the stock.” In fact, he was the leading shareholder. He also owned the plot of land where the new club intended to erect a ball grounds. Hanlon was well-known in the city as the former manager of the National League Orioles of the 1890s, the city’s heyday in the sport, and had permanently relocated to Baltimore.
Hanlon had been around for a long time. He first played professionally at age 19 back in 1877. He reached the majors in 1880 with Cleveland, remaining active through 1892. In 1889, he began a long career managing at the game’s top level, which took him to stops in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Brooklyn and finally Cincinnati through 1907.
While managing Brooklyn, Hanlon purchased the Montreal franchise of the Eastern League and moved it to Baltimore in 1903 when the city’s American League club was relocated to New York by Ban Johnson. Dunn, the Orioles manager, purchased the team from Hanlon after the 1909 season. Hanlon had been an advocate for returning big league ball to Baltimore and leapt at the chance offered by the Federal League.
Hanlon looked to be a strong advocate for the Feds and address the league directors to discuss, among other things, “the present monopoly of Organized Baseball.” In fact, Hanlon was rumored as a candidate for president of the Federal League, as Gilmore’s naming in August was declared to be temporary. However, on November 15, Gilmore was reaffirmed as league leader. (On the 29th, Hanlon addressed the league directors in Pittsburgh during a private session. According to a Kansas City “informant,” “Hanlon will be one of the leading figures in the destiny of the new league.”)
Stock sales in the new ballclub initially proved brisk but soon slowed. Hanlon insisted the stock price be dropped to $10 to involve a wider array of city residents. Eventually, about 600 individuals purchased $164,400 in stock with another $36,000 in loans given to fund the club.
On December 30, Hanlon purchased the last of a group of smaller lots and sold a large portion of real estate to the Baltimore Federal League club for its new ballpark. The property, a triangular lot, was located at 29th Street and York Road – to the north, across the street and behind Jack Dunn’s International League Baltimore Orioles’ field, Orioles Park (the fourth version).
Around the time that Baltimore was declared as a possible Federal League city, Wilbert Robinson was released from his contract as a coach with John McGraw’s New York Giants. This sparked speculation that the old Baltimore hero was slated to take over the city’s new entry. However, Robinson was soon named manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League.
On January 5, the Baltimore Feds, informally being called the Monumentals or Terrapins, finally hired their manager. Second baseman Otto Knabe left the Philadelphia Phillies to accept a 3-year, $30,000 offer. He had previously turned down the same position with the Pittsburgh Feds. The contract, half given upfront, was thought to be the highest in Baltimore history.
Knabe was the third big name to jump his major league contract for the Federal League. George Stovall and Joe Tinker preceded him. Miner Brown was soon to follow. With the loss of their players, the established major leagues, the American and National, finally awoke; they vehemently threatened all contract jumpers with blacklisting. On the 8th, Knabe and several other Fed representatives met with a group of major leaguers, offering them contracts. A day later, the Chicago Feds announced four more defections.
By mid January, Knabe, Hanlon and Harry Goldman claimed for Baltimore:
- Cozy Dolan, Cardinals, utility
- Enos Kirkpatrick, Dodgers, infielder
- Knabe, Phillies, second base
- Mike Mowrey, Pittsburgh, third baseman
- Frank Smith, former long-time major leaguer, pitcher
- Runt Walsh, Phillies, infielder
- Guy Zinn, Braves, outfielder
- Hack Simmons, Rochester (IL), utility
- Harry Swacina, Newark (IL), first base
Dolan and Mowrey ultimately remained in the National League. Kirkpatrick signed with Baltimore shortly after the New Year, taking a $1000 advance. He subsequently re-signed with Wilbert Robinson who had taken over the Dodgers. Kirkpatrick flopped again and finally did join Knabe’s camp. Simmons and Swacina had just finished one-two, respectively, in the International League batting race.
The Battle for Baltimore, 1914: The Federal League Moves In
(forthcoming article, date TBD)
Major league baseball opened in 1914 on Monday April 13, not with an American or National League contest but in Baltimore with two recently assembled nines of the revamped Federal League. The new league was deemed an interloper, encroaching on the established major leagues. In the parlance of Organized Baseball, it was known as an outlaw league.
The Federal League raised much like the American League had a decade and a half earlier – from a predominantly western conglomeration hastily reconstructed since the beginning of the year to include the game’s traditional base – the East. Financial backers, managers, athletes and ballparks had to be thrown together within a few short months to meet the Opening Day deadline.
Baltimore saw the Federal League as a godsend, not an interloper. The major league version of the game had been absent from the city since the vengeful John McGraw tried to destroy the American League and Baltimore baseball along with it in 1902.
The city had been astir since October when whispers emerged that the newly-declared major sought it include it. Baltimore yearned for the idea; it just didn’t seem right that there could be major league ball without such the city with a long history of stellar baseball.
Baltimore Sun 10/31/1913
Baltimore actually already had a team since 1903, the Orioles, a minor league club owned by Jack Dunn. The Orioles belonged to a top minor circuit – the International League (previously known as the Eastern League). Regardless, the Federal League was offering major league baseball, not a lesser version. Baltimore was hooked long before Opening Day and before a manager, roster or even a nickname was chosen.
It can still be debated today whether the Federal League was actually a major. Talent-wise, it probably wasn’t. Few young ballplayers from the league went on to extended careers at baseball’s top level. Nevertheless, Baltimore clung to the renewed prospect of major league baseball.
As ravenous as Baltimore was for baseball, it’s unlikely that it could adequately support two top-level teams. Which one would survive? Dunn certainly had momentum on his side; his Orioles had been operating in the city continuously for over a decade. One backer of the Federal League club – known as the Terrapins, though, represented the city’s heyday in the sport. Ned Hanlon was the architect of one of the top dynasties of the 19th century – the National League Baltimore Orioles of the mid 1890s. (Hanlon was the original owner of Dunn’s Orioles. He had bought the Montreal club and moved them to Baltimore in 1903. He sold outto Dunn after the 1909 season.)
To set the tone for the rivalry, the Terrapins established their grounds, Terrapin Park, directly across York Road from Orioles Park.
If Opening Day was any indicator, Dunn was at a distinct disadvantage. The Baltimore Evening News of Monday, April 13, 1914 made this perfectly clear.
A huge parade kicked off at the Emerson Hotel, at Baltimore and Calvert Streets. Thousands lined the streets as the men rode to the new park on York Road. The procession included:
- Baltimore players and manager Otto Knabe
- Buffalo players and manager Larry Schlafly
- Baltimore team officials
- Buffalo team officials
- Federal League president James Gilmore
- Millionaire Federal League backers George, Robert and William Ward
- Ned Hanlon
28,000 filed into Terrapin Park for the 3pm contest, some lining up as early as 6am to by tickets, which went on sale at 11am. It was (perhaps incorrectly) declared to be “the largest crowd ever gathered at a local ball game.”
The News dedicated much of their front page to the return of major league baseball. And this still wasn’t enough – the main edition only took the readers up to game time. A special edition had to be arranged:
City officials couldn’t hide their elation:
Baltimore Sun 4/14/1914
Dunn brought in the famed New York Giants, reigning National League champions, to play across the street. The 3000 that saw the Orioles-Giants game paled in comparison to the raucous next door.
Baltimore Sun 4/14/1914
In contrast the News’s coverage on the Orioles’ Opening Day – eight days later – was decidedly reserved. Relegated to Page 16, the Orioles warranted only a modest article plugging each of the top players on the club. A collage of 21 of the team’s personnel was the highlight. Dunn, at least, had this advantage. The News had a photographic archive of his charges.
The echoes of the Federal League’s presence were felt throughout all of baseball on Opening Day. Lawsuits flew back and forth between it and clubs in Organized Baseball. On April 13 alone, a suit was filed concerning Terrapins starter Jack Quinn who had jumped his Boston Braves contract. It wasn’t the only suit filed that day. Elsewhere, Bill Killefer was expelled from the players union for inking multiple deals – with the Phillies and the Federal League.
It was going to be a rough year for the Orioles – despite the presence of the game’s soon-to-be #1 star, Babe Ruth (Pictured Top Left of Collage).
An initiative began in 1866 to form the Maryland Baseball Convention to help spread the organized sport throughout the state. George Gratton, a Baltimore entrepreneur, aided the formation of the MBC partily as an effort to increase the marketing base of his baseball goods business.
Easton in Talbot County, Maryland was one of many smaller towns in the state that fielded their first formal baseball clubs in 1866-1867.
Easton Gazette 9/29/1866
Easton Gazette 3/16/1867
The first formal baseball club in Easton, known as the Fair Play Club, was organized in late March 1867 and played their first game on Wednesday April 3, an intersquad contest.
Easton Gazette 4/6/1867
Soon though, the Fair Plays were face nines of surrounding towns, such as Trappe (Choptank Club) and St. Michael’s (Claiborne Club).
Easton Gazette 9/7/1867
A somewhat amusing letter to the editor by Brick Pomeroy, a Fair Play member, near the end of the hard-fought first season in the new sport.
Easton Gazette 8/24/1867
The 1860 U.S. Census lists 677 male slaves in Baltimore City and 10,346 free “colored” males. In Baltimore County there were 1617 male slaves and 2153 free “colored” males. A change in the state constitution in November 1864 emancipated Maryland slaves. By 1870, 50,000 African-American inhabited Baltimore City and County.
Black ballplayers and clubs were not followed, and rarely even mentioned, by the main Baltimore newspapers in the 1860s. No teams or individuals stand out.
According to researcher John Holway, black teams were forming in the east as early as 1862. It would be some time before Baltimore fielded a top club. By the middle of the decade, a few teams were making a dent: Monitors of Jamaica, Long Island; Bachelors of Albany; Excelsiors of Philadelphia; Mutuals of D.C.; Alerts of D.C.; Blue Sky of Camden, New Jersey; Monrovia of Harrisburg; Uniques of Chicago.
In 1866, the Philadelphia Phythians were formed. They proved competitive until 1871 when they disbanded after the assassination of founder Octavius Catto. In Philadelphia on September 3, 1869, the first interracial game in baseball history took place between the Pythians and the Olympics of Philadelphia, the city’s oldest club, dating back to 1832. “The Pythians Base-Ball Club, (colored), after challenging a number of white clubs of this city, who refused to play, succeeded in getting an acceptance from the Olympic, which club defeated them by the score 44-23. The novelty of the affair drew an immense crowd of people, it being the first game played between a white and colored club.”[i]
A couple of other interracial games took place in Philly in 1869. On September 16, the Pythians defeated an assembled white team sponsored by the local newspaper the Philadelphia Item. In October, the Olympics defeated the Alerts of Philadelphia, a black club, 56-4.
The Baltimore Sun declared on September 23, “It is stated that the Maryland Base Ball Club have declined to play the Olympics, because the latter played a match with a colored club…”[ii] Another concern may have stemmed from a riot by black fans at a ball game in Charleston, South Carolina in August.[iii]
The Sun issued a correction on September 25, “The directors of the Maryland Base Ball Club of this city correct the statement that they have refused to play the Olympics of Washington [sic] because the latter had engaged a colored club which was not a convention organization. The subject, it is stated, has never been discussed by the Maryland club.”[iv] Whether it was allegedly discussed or not it surely was an issue in the southern state. It would be some time before the first prominent black club would rise in Baltimore.
Maryland[v] continued in 1870 as the city’s only pro club. They weren’t a particularly strong one though, finishing with a 2-14 record versus professional opponents. In late July, the Marylands embarked on a western tour that took them to Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Rockford, and Chicago, among other stops. It wasn’t a successful tour by any means, financially or competitively. Of the four league games they played, they won only one. Too boot, the club was pilfered for its players and soon folded.
On August 8 and 9, they played the Kekiongas of Fort Wayne, Indiana, defeating them 28-10 and 19-6. The Marylands then left for Pittsburgh but soon the Kekiongas reached out and poached the Baltimore club for Bobby Mathews and Tom Carey. First baseman Tom Forker, infielder-catcher Frank Sellman, and Mathews’ battery mate, Bill Lennon, soon followed. The group played out west into November.
The local Olympic and Pastime clubs[vi] of Baltimore were amateur members of the NABBP. On June 24, the Pastimes took part in an interesting chapter in baseball history. They were playing the Red Stockings of Cincinnati at the Madison Avenue Grounds while the Nationals and Olympics of D.C. were playing in Washington. “A wire of the Western Union Telegram Company was connected at the grounds [in D.C.] with one of those at the Pastime club in Baltimore…The [records] of each inning were received and announced simultaneously in both cities.”[vii] The event not only highlights the popularity of the sport by the end of the decade but demonstrates the thirst baseball fans have always possessed for knowledge about the game.
The Pastimes fared poorly against the top clubs in 1870. In one game at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn, versus the local Atlantics, on July 29, the visitors lost 27-7. It was said that the Pastimes “unwisely presented an elastic ball for the match, instead of a dead ball.”[viii] The Atlantics batted it freely.
By the end of the year, the game was changing. The NABBP had run its course, torn apart by competing interests of amateurism and professionalism. Fort Wayne chose professionalism and joined the new National Association. Over the winter, the club’s secretary, armed with an agenda and cash, raided Baltimore clubs for several more players. The Marylands were forced to disband and the Pastime club was severely damaged as well.
Fort Wayne’s Opening Day roster in 1871 included five Maryland club players: Mathews; Lennon; Carey; Wally Goldsmith; Ed Mincher. On that day, May 4, Mathews, just 19 years old, pitched and won the first game in National Association history — some might call it the first major-league game. It was one of the cleanest, most competitive baseball games any fan had seen to that point. Mathews allowed only five hits and struck out six in the 2-0 shutout. It was the lowest-scoring game anyone could ever remember. The opposing pitcher, Al Pratt of the Cleveland Forest Cities, gave up only four hits. The New York Herald declared it “the finest game of baseball ever witnessed.” The Fort Wayne Gazette seconded the notion: “This is undoubtedly the best game on record.”
[i] New York Times, 5 September 1869
[ii] Baltimore Sun, 23 September 1969, page 4
[iii] Baltimore Sun, 11 August 1869, page 4
[iv] Baltimore Sun, 25 September, page 1
[v] Per Marshall Wright’s National Association of Base Ball Players, the 1870 Maryland club included Tom Forker; Charles Bearman; Wally Goldsmith; Tom Carey; Ed Mincher; Tully Worthington; Mike Hooper; Bill Lennon; Bobby Mathews; Sam Armstrong; Kernan.
[vi] Per Marshall Wright’s National Association of Base Ball Players, the 1870 Pastime club included Southard; Popplein; Annan; Bailey; Chenowith; Doyle; Lucas; Williams; McDonald; Buck; Reese; Barrett; Turnbull.
[vii] Baltimore Sun, 25 June 1870, page 4
[viii] New York Times, 30 July 1870, page 3
The Baltimore Sun introduced the new season on April 28, 1869: “Base Ball – The season for this invigorating field sport has again arrived. The Maryland Base Ball Club opened at the Madison Avenue Grounds yesterday afternoon by playing a match game between the first senior nine and the first junior nine of the club. The score stood at the ninth inning Juniors 3, Seniors 28.”[i]
Eighteen Sixty-Nine was the dawn of official professionalism, as the National Association of Base Ball Players[ii] recognized two statuses of clubs for the first time, amateur and professional. The Maryland club[iii] was one of twelve to claim professional status; to compete on the new level, they brought in the first waves of players born outside Baltimore. The other professional clubs included: Red Stockings of Cincinnati; Athletics and Keystones of Philadelphia; Olympics and Nationals of Washington, D.C.; Eckfords and Atlantics of Brooklyn; Mutuals of New York; Unions of Lansingburgh, New York; Forest Citys of Cleveland and Irvingtons of New Jersey. The New York Times in July noted the Maryland uniforms – “blue pantaloons and check shirts and caps.”[iv]
Maryland was 14-13 in professional matches, 3-1 versus the Olympics, 1-2 versus the Keystones, 1-2 versus the Athletics, 1-2 versus the Eckfords and 1-1 versus the Mutuals to name a few. On June 24, the Red Stockings took on the Marylands at Madison Avenue. Cincinnati was amid their acclaimed winning streak which extended all of 1869 and well into 1870. Maryland was the reigning southern champions. The grounds were packed with attentive onlookers. The mighty Reds led 21-1 after three innings. Cincinnati finished with a 47-7 victory.
With professional comes the strain of meeting payroll. A sign that the professional era had indeed arrived took place in Philadelphia on July 6. “The game of base ball proposed for today between the Athletics, of Philadelphia, and the Maryland club, of Baltimore, did not come off. The latter club before commencing the game claimed half of the gate money, which was refused, and they declined to play.”[v] Maryland had played the Keystones the day before without incident.
The Marylands again claimed the championship of the South with a victory over the Nationals, 23-12, on September 16. Maryland topped the Pastimes[vi] three out of four contests in 1869. The Pastimes maintained their amateur status and in essence continued their fall as one of the top area clubs. As expected, they were dominated by the professional nines.[vii] On June 29, the Pastimes’ catcher Hazlehurst broke his leg after a collision at the plate with Davy Force of the Olympics of D.C. who was stealing home. The accident called a halt to the game in the fourth inning in Washington.
New York Times 8/1/1869
Bobby Mathews, nearly forgotten today, was one of the top pitchers of the early professional era despite his small stature (5 feet 5½ inches tall, weight about 140 pounds). Between 1871 and 1887, he won nearly 300 games, 297 to be exact – more than any pitcher not inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Robert T. Mathews was born on November 21, 1851, in Baltimore, Maryland, the only son of Irish natives John and Mary Mathews. He learned to play ball as a teenager on the Belair Market lots in the Old Town section of the city. At the age of 16, Mathews, a right-hander, joined the junior team of the Marylands of Baltimore in 1868. In August 1869, he moved to the senior club, which had claimed professional status, replacing Elias Cope as the club’s main pitcher.
Mathews’ made his first start as a pro on August 19 against the Orientals of New York, a 28-15 victory. The Marylands were not among the elite clubs of the NABBP; Mathews and third baseman Tom Carey were the only two whose careers would stretch into the National League era. But the roster was eventually strong enough to form the crux of one of the initial franchises, Fort Wayne, in the game’s first professional league, the National Association, in 1871.
The game was still in its genesis in 1871. It was played barehanded and pitchers hurled from 45 feet, underhanded. The previous winter, standout catcher Nat Hicks had gone to Baltimore to work with Mathews. Historian Peter Morris surmises that this was the point at which the pitcher developed, or perhaps gained control of, a curveball. Only one other pitcher in the game, Candy Cummings, could make that claim.
Fort Wayne included several other Baltimore players: Robert Armstrong, Charles Bierman, Bill Barrett, and Henry Kohler. The club was formed as a cooperative, meaning that the players shared in the gate receipts in lieu of a salary. Dwindling attendance plagued the team nearly from the start. A Fort Wayne game scheduled for Washington on July 8 was moved to Baltimore in order to spark interest and increase the gate. On July 25, Bill Lennon, Mathews’ primary catcher since he turned pro, and Frank Sellman were released for excessive drinking and related offenses.
The players’ bitterness over this and the meager paydays took its toll on team morale. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Pastimes reorganized under manager Albert H. Henderson, who quickly signed Lennon, Mincher, and Sellman. Henderson also added Bill Stearns from the Washington Olympics and George Hall from the Brooklyn Atlantics. At the end of August, the Kekiongas disbanded amid financial troubles. Mathews had started and complete all the club’s 19 games. He joined the Pastimes with Carey and first baseman Jim Foran. The men played out the season in and around Baltimore.
Mathews continued with the Pastimes, now calling themselves the Lord Baltimores, in 1872. The team adopted a colorful black, white, and bright yellow uniform, which led some to call them the Baltimore Canaries. Well-known ballplayers Bill Craver, Davy Force, Dick Higham, and Lip Pike, among others, were brought in to fill out the roster. Cherokee Fisher was hired to sub for Mathews in the box. The Canaries finished second in the National Association to the extremely strong Boston Red Stockings.
In 1873, Mathews became the main pitcher for the New York Mutuals, taking his battery mate, Dick Higham, with him. Nat Hicks was New York’s main catcher and this may explain why Mathews jumped clubs. He stayed with the Mutuals through 1876.
Mathews was a small guy, nicknamed Little Bobby; he couldn’t overwhelm the batters with a blazing fastball. As a consequence, he relied heavily on the curveball, alternating it with a fastball, changeup (called a “slow ball” at the time) and even a spitter. Like all good pitchers, he delivered each pitch with the same fluid motion, ensuring that the batter wasn’t tipped off. Sporting Life claimed, “Robert Mathews was the first to introduce a slow raise [a rising changeup], as far back as ’72.” He was one of the few to master the various deliveries as the rules of the game changed over the years from underhand to side-arm and eventually overhand. Throughout his career, he consistently posted strikeout-per-nine-inning ratios that were among the best in the league; he was in the top two in 1871-73, 1879, 1882-83, and 1885.
It’s thought that Candy Cummings and Bobby Mathews were the only two professionals to have mastered the curveball through the 1873 season. After the spitball came into vogue in the early 20th century, several baseball men stepped forward to claim that it was not, in fact, a new delivery. While it is true that Mathews never claimed to have been the original spitball pitcher (he died before it became an issue), quite a few did, including Cap Anson, Jim Corbett, 1880s pitcher Ted Kennedy, umpire Billy Hart, Phonney Martin, Tim Murnane, Hank O’Day, and William Rankin.
Mathews’ 131 wins in the National Association rank third behind Al Spalding of Boston (205) and Dick McBride of Philadelphia (149), quite a feat considering that the latter two played for stronger clubs and Mathews’ nines were typically weak with the bat. Over the final four National Association seasons, Mathews amassed more than 2,050 innings on the mound. He was the career National Association leader in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings.
Mathews remained with the Mutuals as the club moved into the upstart National League in 1876. It was a poor club, though. New York refused to finish its schedule, ignoring a road trip in mid-September, and was consequently ousted from the league over the winter. Mathews then joined Cincinnati with his battery mate Nat Hicks for 1877. The club was extremely poor and folded in mid-June amid financial trouble. Mathews then joined Janesville in the League Alliance. He wouldn’t become the main pitcher on a major-league club again until 1883.
He pitched for the Brooklyn Chelseas and Worcester Live Oaks in 1878 and joined the Providence Grays in the National League the following year. Providence won the National League pennant in 1879 under manager George Wright by five games over Boston. Mathews won 12 and lost 6 subbing for John Montgomery Ward on the mound.
In May 1880, Mathews joined the San Francisco Stars of the independent Pacific League and re-signed with Providence for the ’81 season. He was released in mid-July for drunkenness, a malady which plagued him throughout his life, and then joined Boston as an outfielder. Boston’s rotation changed in 1882; Mathews alternated with Jim Whitney.
Mathews’ career took an upward turn in 1883 when he joined the Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association, a rival major league in its second season. Immediately, he reassumed his ace status after six years, at age 31. He started 44 games and posted a 30-13 record. He was happy in Philadelphia, which wasn’t far from his Baltimore hometown, and played out his career there. He won 30 games in each of his first three seasons with the Athletics, pitching 1,234 innings. Philadelphia took the pennant in 1883 behind Mathews’ right arm but finished in the middle of the pack in 1884 and ’85.
His arm started giving him trouble in 1886, signaling a steady decline, and he lost his main starting job. With an ailing arm, he was released after seven games in 1887, ending his major league career. He had developed a fine reputation as a college coach and pursued that line of work. He also umpired off and on.
After his umpiring career ended, Mathews, who never married, moved around the East Coast from job to job. By early 1892, he was living in Trenton, New Jersey, hitting the race track and bottle daily. By the middle of 1895, he was virtually penniless, living and working at a roadhouse outside Providence owned by his ex-teammate Joe Start.
Mathews fell ill by 1897 and became hospitalized with a brain disorder attributable to syphilis. On April 17, 1898, Bobby Mathews, 46 years old, died at home “after a long and painful illness” from “advanced syphilis.”
[i] Baltimore Sun, 28 April 1869, page 1
[ii] No other Maryland clubs joined the NABBP in 1869.
[iii] Per Marshall Wright’s National Association of Base Ball Players, the 1869 Maryland club included: Reese; Goldsmith; Sellman; Buck; Mincher; Armstrong; Hooper; Lennon; Cope; Worthington; Mathews; Wilson; Lucas; Keerl
[iv] New York Times, 30 July 1869, page 8
[v] Baltimore Sun, 7 July 1869, page 1
[vi] Per Marshall Wright’s National Association of Base Ball Players, the 1869 Pastime club included: Lucas; Popplein; Annan; Bailey; Doyle; Chenowith; Armistead; Keerl; Turnbull.
[vii] A partial listing of games can be found in Marshall Wright’s National Association of Base Ball Players
Baltimore and Maryland colleges were playing baseball during the Civil War; though, few were organized or dominate enough to gain much notice. Harvard had the strongest college baseball program of the 1860s, traveling and defeating many of the top nines throughout the east. By the end of the decade, schools around Annapolis and Washington D.C. garnered some interest from newspaper writers. Georgetown University, straddling Maryland and D.C., was fielding teams by 1865. They had at least two clubs, known as the Georgetowns and Invincibles. Various references date the start of Georgetown baseball from 1866 to 1870 but a box score from the Baltimore Sun on December 4, 1865 shows two of the institution’s clubs going at it.[i]
The Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, also known as the Kendall school and currently Gallaudet University, was playing ball by 1868. In June of that year, they took on the Pastimes of Baltimore at Madison Avenue.[ii]
By 1869, baseball was in high gear in Annapolis. The United States Naval Academy had at least two clubs, one dubbed the Naval Cadets, another the Monitors. A potential opponent was St. John’s College of Annapolis. St. John’s had a baseball diamond on their grounds as early as 1868;[iii] presumably a college nine was playing there. The Maryland Agricultural College, today known as the University of Maryland, College Park, also fielded nines by the end of the decade. It would be decades before they produced major league-quality talent.
A University of Maryland website states that in 1888, “The college’s [Maryland Agricultural College] first recorded intercollegiate athletic competitions were baseball games against St. John’s College and the Naval Academy.”[iv] However, the Maryland Agricultural College played St. John’s on Saturday June 12, 1869.[v]
Seventeen-year-old Ed Mincher joined the first nine of the Enterprise club in 1868. He was born in June 1851 in Baltimore, the son of a popular courthouse bailiff. Later in 1868, Mincher joined the Maryland club, playing with them through 1870 when he jumped to Fort Wayne. He appeared in 20 games in the National Association from 1871-1872 with the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and Washington Nationals. He also played for the Pastimes in 1871.
Mincher played baseball around Baltimore until the late 1870s, captaining many of the squads. In 1877, he was captain of the Wilmington Quicksteps. By 1880, Mincher moved to Philadelphia where he worked as a street and railroad contractor.[vi] He died in Brooklyn in December 1918.
Michael Hooper was born in Baltimore in February 1850. The beginning of his career in amateur baseball is a little cloudy, as other Hoopers were also members of the Maryland club. For example, a Michael Hooper was secretary of the club in 1862 when the future major leaguer was only twelve years old.[vii]
Mike Hooper may have been a member of the Maryland club as early as 1866 at age sixteen. He continued with the team through the end of the decade, acting a captain as he matured. In 1873, he appeared in three games for the Baltimore Marylands in the National Association. They were the clubs final three, of six, league contests. Hooper also performed as a local umpire during three seasons in the NA and for the Union Association in 1884.
Hooper passed away in Baltimore on December 1, 1917.[viii]
[i] Baltimore Sun, 4 December 1865, page 4
[ii] Baltimore Sun, 4 June 1868, page 2
[iii] Baltimore Sun, 3 September 1868, page 4
[v] Baltimore Sun, 15 June 1869, page 4
[vi] Per the 1880 U.S. Census
[vii] Obviously, this could have been an older relation, perhaps a father or uncle. There was also a William Hooper in 1866.
[viii] The reference sites say December 2 but the first date is taken from his obituary in the Baltimore Sun on 2 December 1917.